ASIA/INDONESIA - Priorities for new president Joko Widodo: stop intolerance and guarantee religious freedom

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) - Priority for the new president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, and his new government is to address the issue of the growing religious intolerance in Indonesia, which has become a national concern, and that penalizes minorities. The is stated by Churches and NGOs in the aftermath of the announcement of the results of the presidential elections. According to the official count, Widodo (nicknamed "Jokowi") obtained 53.15% of the votes, while his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto – who contests the election results - reached 46.85%. Subianto announced a legal recourse for the review of the results. Widodo has launched an appeal to "national reconciliation", calling for the unity of the nation, for the good of the country.
Intolerance and religious violence remains a serious problem in the country: as noted by the NGO "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" (CSW), in recent years there has been an increase of abuses, discrimination and violence on Christians, Ahmadis and Shia Muslims, followers of traditional indigenous beliefs. The NGO has recently published a report titled "Indonesia: Pluralism in danger. The rise of religious intolerance" (see Fides 26/02/2014), which provides a detailed analysis of the increasing violations of freedom of religion or belief, and proposes 25 recommendations to the Indonesian government.
Widodo, in his political career, has openly defended the freedom of religion and the Indonesian tradition of religious pluralism. In his presidential election campaign he pledged to protect the Constitution, which provides for freedom of religion. In a note sent to Fides, Mervyn Thomas, Director of CSW calls on the new president "to protect and promote freedom of religion in Indonesia, placing it as a priority for the new government. It is urgent to take measures to curb religious intolerance. We hope that the government is committed to enforcing constitutional guarantees on freedom of religion, for example, by removing the indication of religion on identity cards, revising the discriminatory and unjust laws, enforcing the judgments issued by the courts. We hope that Joko Widodo’s election inaugurates a new era of freedom of religion, peace and stability in Indonesia". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 24/07/2014)